Rory McIlroy ready to return to action in the Wells Fargo Championship
Ulsterman has a special affinity for Quail Hollow where he triumphed back in 2010
Seung-Yul Noh celebrates with fellow golfers Charlie Wi and YE Yang and his caddy Scott Saitinac after his win in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
He’s back. No, not Tiger Woods, who has earmarked the British Open at Hoylake in July as his potential comeback to competition following back surgery. Rather, Rory McIlroy – who enjoyed some down time at home in Northern Ireland last week – returns to competitive fare in this week’s Wells Fargo championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Ulsterman, who celebrates his 25th birthday next Sunday, has been very selective in when and where he has played so far this season in mapping out an itinerary aimed at peaking for the Majors. It didn’t work exactly to play at the Masters where he finished tied-eighth but his reappearance at Quail Hollow comes ahead of next week’s Players championship at Sawgrass, which will be followed by another week off before he tees up at Wentworth as he ups the ante.
Fears that he would miss the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA championship at Wentworth next month were allayed yesterday when McIlroy added the event to his schedule. McIlroy has missed the cut there in the past two years.
In a statement issued by the PGA European Tour, McIlroy confirmed: “The BMW PGA Championship is always one of the highlights of the year and it is a title we are all keen to win. I’ve been a little hit and miss at Wentworth in recent years, but I think this year my game is in much better shape going into the tournament, so I’m feeling confident about my chances of performing well there.
“With it being the European Tour’s flagship event, it is a big week for everyone involved and there is always a great atmosphere. Some of the greats of the game have won the title over the years and it would certainly be nice to join them on the championship’s 60th anniversary.
“Wentworth always kicks off the golf season in Europe, leading up to the (British) Open Championship, and hopefully a good performance there can launch a successful summer.”
Of more immediate importance, you suspect, is his next two weeks on the US Tour. McIlroy has a special affinity for Quail Hollow. “I love the golf course, love the area,” he said.
It was on this course in 2010 that he secured his breakthrough win on the US Tour – finishing with a final round 62 to spectacularly announce his arrival to the American golfing public – and it will also stage the US PGA championship in 2017.
McIlroy, who has dropped outside the world’s top-10, down to 11th, hasn’t played since his tied-eighth finish at the Masters and is seeking his first win since capturing the Australian Open last November. On his visit home last week, McIlroy included playing a round at Royal Co Down (which plays host to next year’s Irish Open) and also undertook some physical workouts at the GSK Human Performance Lab in England.
McIlroy is joined in Quail Hollow by Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington. Harrington, who is 198th in the current FedEx Cup standings on the US Tour, had missed the cut in both the Texas Open and the Houston Open in failing to get into the field for Augusta and returned to action in New Orleans last week where he barely made the cut and then just survived Saturday’s secondary cut before finishing in tied-67th.
“I definitely need to play more to get myself into the right frame for scoring,” said Harrington, who has struggled stateside this season – missing the cut in five of the nine tournaments he has played in – with a best finish of tied-27th in the Pebble Beach pro-am.
Formerly known as the Ballantines championship and previously staged in South Korea, this week’s tour stop on the European Tour takes in the rebranded The Championship at Laguna National in Singapore where four Irish players are in the field: Simon Thornton, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Peter Lawrie. Brett Rumford is the defending champion.